Finally got to see “The LEGO Batman Movie” flying home from vacation recently. I had meant to see it in theaters, but movies don’t hang around too long in the theaters here and I had heard a fairly lukewarm review from a friend who’d seen it, so I figured I’d wait for it to be streaming. As soon as it began, I was smiling from ear to ear. Will Arnett (“Arrested Development”, “Bojack Horseman”) is back to reprise his role as the Dark Knight after voicing him in the “LEGO Movie” from 2014. But midway through the first action sequence, there was something missing. Something hadn’t clicked the way it had for me watching the first film.
We begin with the Joker hijacking a plane inexplicably full of explosive, intent on blowing up Gotham City. With him is literally every villain Batman has ever faced, even the really, really lame ones (it’s been almost 80 years; there’re bound to be some stinkers in there). Batman arrives and single-handedly stops all the bad guys but has to make a choice: does he stop the Joker from escaping or does he save Gotham City?
The story then follows Batman as he struggles with his lack of friends, family, or anyone close to him besides his faithful butler Alfred (voiced by Ralph Fiennes) whom he keeps at a distance like a rebellious teenager. At a gala for Commissioner Gordon’s retirement, now as his billionaire alter ego Bruce “Bruno” Wayne, he falls head over heels for the new commissioner Barbara Gordon. He also meets Dick Grayson, an orphan boy who is obsessed with Bruce Wayne (and Batman) because he too is an orphan but managed to make something great of his life. When the Joker and baddies arrive and give themselves up (wait, what?!) Batman is tricked into thinking he has no choice but to banish him to the Phantom Zone, a deep space prison for the worst of the worst. From there, it gets pretty complicated, introducing all kinds of bad guys from the worlds of “Lord of the Rings”, “Harry Potter”, “Gremlins”, and pretty much anything else to which Warner Brothers owns the rights.
The story ultimately comes down to accepting help when you need it, allowing yourself to be a part of and the power of teamwork. There are some great voice actors in the film, including Michael Cera (“Superbad”, “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”) as Dick Grayson aka Robin, Rosario Dawson (“Sin City”, “Rent”) as Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl, Zach Gallifinakis (“The Hangover”, “Bored to Death”) as the Joker, and so many more, it’d make your head spin. Gallifinakis’ Joker leaves something to be desired, but everyone else is perfectly cast.
I think what it comes down to is this: “The LEGO Movie” was SO much fun, so imaginative, and so full of child-like wonder, that the follow-up in “The LEGO Batman Movie” is lacking for substance. It’s a fun Batman caper with silly jokes and fun action set pieces, but it’s missing even what makes Batman great: heart. All that being said, it was a fun, funny, exciting movie and kids will love it, even if they don’t yet appreciate the nuances of the Batman himself (pushes up nerd glasses).
Rating: 3 out of 5 Snack Packs
What did you think? Let’s discuss in the comments!